The Majlis: College will fashion a new generation

The College of Fashion & Design in Dubai is different, because it’s completely dedicated – we have the facilities and the expertise that budding fashion designers need.

The College of Fashion & Design in Dubai is the first dedicated fashion college in the GCC. The fact that we have opened this college goes to show how much the home-grown fashion industry in the GCC is booming. The ­Islamic fashion industry has a multi- billion-dirham turnover.

So many people these days want to become fashion designers, but they don’t yet know the correct steps. They don’t understand that you need to know your fabrics, how to cut them, what cut works with what and how to manage a business.

A lot of people in the UAE enter the world of fashion because they love it, but they end up faltering after a few years. That’s because until now, we haven’t had proper incubators for fashion ­designers. We’ve had fashion schools in Sharjah, but this college is different, because it’s completely dedicated – we have the facilities and the expertise that budding fashion designers need.

The campus also has what the students need to relax, such as a restaurant, cafe, spa and salon. That’s important, because this is a creative industry.

One day, I would like to see the college’s graduates working for my fashion label, House of Hend. I’m always looking to take on people from the local market, because they understand local tastes better.

­Emiratis are the ones with the buying power, and I believe you have to be born and bred here to understand our requirements.

They understand the market here. For example, that a particular item needs a lot of ironing, so it doesn’t last very long, or that more revealing dresses don’t sell as fast.

The Bahraini make-up artist Zahraa Hubail is a good example of how to be successful, because she sells high-quality products at low prices. A lot of designers make the mistake of starting out with really expensive tailors and fabrics, then when they come to sell, customers are reluctant to splash out on them because they’re new and untested. You need to understand your market, and cut costs from the beginning. You can make higher profit in the long run if you understand how to raise prices at the right time.

We have done fashion shows in Egypt, ­Saudi ­Arabia and Kuala Lumpur, and also during the Cannes Film Festival and ­AltaRoma (Rome Fashion Week). But as well as big shows, we used to do non-profit fashion shows, where everybody would chip in Dh1,000 to Dh3,000 and we would organise the models, make-up, hair, photography, PR and media. We had a lot of local designers whose careers were born from these mini fashion shows, but they were junior designers, and they didn’t have the proper know-how.

Because we didn’t have an entity that would act like an umbrella, we created the Designers Guild, which became like a private club for anyone in the field of design.

As well as fashion designers, our members were photographers, graphic designers, models, make-up artists, ­jewellery makers and bag designers. People would come to pick up tips. We had a wide remit, and had a lot of fun helping each ­other.

* As told to Jessica Hill

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassemi runs fashion label House of Hend. She recently became chairperson of the advisory board for the new College of Fashion & Design, which took on its first students last month. She is also the chief executive of Paris, London, New York Events and Publishing and editor-in-chief of Velvet fashion magazine.

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